Monday, October 18, 2010

Lessons for Coaching in Micronesia

Pacific Islands University has a men's basketball league, but no leagues for women. Observing how much the women at PIU enjoy playing volleyball, I decided to put together and coach a PIU women's volleyball team, and I am currently organizing a league. I have coached several different volleyball teams over the years, but coaching this Micronesian college team has been quite a challenge! Here are some lessons I have learned along the way:

1) Gently substitute the players' cherished island skirts with men's basketball shorts. Be sure the shorts are long enough to cover the players knees so that you don't offend cultural sensibilities.

2) Search high and low for enough athletic shoes for each player to borrow since flip flops are worn for all occasions, including volleyball games (yes, with the skirts).

3) Convince the players to keep their athletic shoes on. Wearing athletic shoes is a requirement in most gyms and certainly in schools, so save yourself the embarrassment of looking out and finding that a quarter of the players have discreetly removed their shoes at some point during the game! Stubbornly resist the repeated request, "Can't we just go bare foot or wear our zorries (flip flops)?"

4) Be prepared for the ensuing shock, horror, and perhaps mutiny, when you announce that actual physical exercise will be required.

5) Maintain absolute control as complete hysteria breaks out amongst players at the spectacle of their fellow teammates actually doing the required conditioning exercises, such as high knee sprints, side shuffles, blocking at the net, etc. From a coach's perspective, because Micronesian women have no prior exercise experience, the execution of the conditioning requirements is rather entertaining.

Note: At all costs, do not even crack a smile when a player asks to turn off the court lights so she can run her laps in the dark without being seen! (actual incident)

6) Convince the players to really take the game seriously and be competitive.

Do not come unglued when during an intense game, an exhausted player queries, "Can't we just play for fun?" (another actual incident)

7 Don't give up just because your players are shouting encouragement to the opposing team's server during the most critical points of the game. (another actual incident). Continue to promote the concept of taking the game seriously and being competitive. (Did I already mention this?)

Despite the challenges of coaching this team, I (Karyn) am excited to use volleyball as an avenue to bring about healthy growth in PIU students. Our team is in desperate need of volleyballs, a ball cart, and some other supplies. If you are interested in helping us meet this need, please contact me. Thank you!


Carolyn_ Armin said...

Funny! Thanks for the insight,too.

HLodge said...

I coached a women's high school basketball team after PIU, back in Chuuk. The first day of practice my girls showed up in shorts, shoes, and the determination to win.

Have Fun!

Eric and Karyn Sorenson said...

Happiness, please send those girls our way--we definitely could use more like that on the PIU women's volleyball team!